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How to go on a DIY cheese tour in Ontario

Cheese lovers, take note: throughout the month of May, Oxford County is hosting Big Cheese Days, a festival celebrating the region’s cheese producers. What better time to visit a region known for its Cheese Trail?

If you’re a cheese lover, Oxford County’s cheese trail is a must-visit. Located about an hour and a half west of downtown Toronto, Oxford County is also known as the “Dairy Capital of Canada.” The area is home to countless cheesemakers, delicious local restaurants and charming small shops, making a short day trip to Oxford County the perfect getaway for any foodie. Better yet, the region is hosting the perfectly-named Big Cheese Days festival throughout the month of May. On every Saturday, Big Cheese Days sees 30 businesses across the county offering visitors special tastings and experiences, including the chance to try limited-edition cheeses, whey cocktails and fireside fondue. We’ve suggested an itinerary below, but trust us: there’s no wrong way to experience Ontario’s cheesiest region.

10 a.m.: Coffee time

Start the day off with coffee at The Olde Bakery Cafe in Ingersoll. Aside from a cup of java, this bakery is the perfect spot to fuel up on breakfast goodies like pancakes, french toast and waffles with locally tapped syrup!. 

The Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum is housed in a replica of a 19th century cheese factory.

11:30 a.m.: History lesson

Next, head over to the Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum to learn about the region’s history of cheesemaking in a replica of a working factory. And while you’re in town, head over to Patina’s of Ingersoll to shop for eclectic handcrafted goods. From jewelry to puzzles to candies, clothes, or any sort of knickknack, Patina’s stocks souvenirs from more than 100 artisans from across the world.

Make sure you visit Red Dragon Dairy for their delicious sheep & water buffalo milk cheeses.

1 p.m.: Lunch break

Get back to the dairy with a visit to Red Dragon Dairy in Salford, a family-owned cheese plant and store specializing in sheep and water buffalo milk cheeses. Plus, if you’re hungry for lunch, the friendly folks at Red Dragon can make you a sandwich or sub with local meats and cheeses. 

If you’re looking for a fuller lunch, drive over to Woodstock and hit up the Brickhouse Brewpub, a pub and brewery that sells local Ontario craft beers and a food menu inspired by local ingredients and suppliers – plus, you can try a pint of Brickhouse’s own Upper Thames Brewing Company beer. 

You’ll want to grab a little bit of everything at Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese

3 p.m.: Tour de force

Then, stop by Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, an artisan cheese plant whose delicious curds are made with milk from the neighbouring family dairy farm. For Big Cheese Days, they’re offering a version of their famous Oxford Harvest cheese that has been flavoured with za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend. To make the most of the visit, pre-book a tour of the premises to learn more about the cheesemaking process and the local agriculture.

4:30 p.m.: Sample size

For more cheesy goodness, head over to Bright Cheese and Butter, the oldest still operating manufacturer of cheddar cheese in Ontario. Established in 1874, Bright Cheese and Butter makes cheeses like aged cheddar, Asiago, Colby and feta in its 1800s-era factory, where you can visit and sample Bright’s delicious award-winning cheeses and of course, curds!

Trust us when we say that sixthirtynine is a great way to end your tour!

6 p.m.: Dinner bell!

Finally, when you’ve had your fill of curds (if that’s even possible), grab dinner at Feast On Certified sixthirtynine in Woodstock, an upscale restaurant dedicated to quality and craftsmanship. The menu at sixthirtynine is always a surprise since it changes based on what’s available from local farms. End the day with a delicious seasonal dessert to fuel you (and your full stomach) on your journey home. 

Ready for more? Check out these other foodie tours around Ontario

Want to eat your way around the province? Try these other fun, food-focused tours.

Chatham-Kent’s Ice Cream Trail

Located in the southwest of the province, this sweet culinary trail features 19 ice cream shops that serve up delicious scoops, sandwiches and more. Download the Great Taste of Ontario passport for more info!

Ontario’s South Coast Wineries Toast the Coast Trail

Looking for drinks, not food? This tour, which will have you driving through Norfolk County along Lake Erie, features nine wineries that will make it easier than ever to drink locally. 

Wellington Farmers Market Trail

Located in Wellington County near Guelph, this summer-specific tour will guide you to eight farmers’ markets, where you can take advantage of the region’s delicious local produce. Each market has unique vendors and provides the perfect excuse to explore Ontario’s small rural towns.

Barrels, Bottles and Brews 

This tour, located in Windsor Essex, is all about local craft beer and spirits – and the history behind them. Take a drive south to this region to sample some of the province’s best concoctions.

Looking for more food adventures? Download one of +30 Great Taste of Ontario passports and plan your next road trip!

Great Taste of Ontario

This piece was originally published in the April 29th Edition of the Great Taste of Ontario Special Report in the Globe and Mail.